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News : Bahamas Information Services Updates Last Updated: Jan 31, 2019 - 1:17:35 PM


House of Assembly approves $30 million IDB Loan for digital government services
By Lindsay Thompson
Jan 31, 2019 - 1:12:41 PM

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Prime Minister Minnis, addressing the House of Assembly, January 31, 2019. (BIS Photo/Yontalay Bowe)

Nassau, The Bahamas - The government is making good on its promise to upgrade its digital platform in order to provide efficient services to the public and external customers.

This will be possible through a loan in the amount of $30 million from the Inter-American Development Bank for the purpose of financing the Government Digital Transformation to Strengthen Competitiveness Programme.

Prime Minister the Most Hon. Dr. Hubert Minnis tabled a Resolution to this effect in the House of Assembly on Wednesday, January 30, 2019; it was subsequently debated and passed.

The digitization programme is expected to update government procedures, design and implement a government cloud computing service that will allow government agencies to access a shared e-Government infrastructure and applications, update the citizen portal and place government procedures online, among other wide-ranging services.

“Our citizens are more digitally connected and have become far more comfortable accessing services online. There has been increased usage of online shopping, online banking and other services. The government must also create a better experience for citizens by making more services available online,” the Prime Minister said.

The government has already begun this process through the establishment of a Modernization Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister, with the sole mandate of transformation, including digital evolution, of government services.

Another goal is to create an efficient Public Service committed to improving the ease of doing business with the government, the Prime Minister said.

“We must make government work for the people instead of people working for the government.  Our services must become more efficient, easier to access, transparent and faster, not just for business but for every Bahamian,” he said.

The Prime Minister quoted Carlos Santiso, the Division Chief of Innovation in the Citizen Services Division, of the IDB, who said:  “The digital revolution, greater connectivity and the expanding availability of devices are increasing demand for digital services. Digitally enabled and hyper-connected citizens are demanding more and better services from their governments… governments need to rethink the way they deliver public services.”

The Prime Minister acknowledged that over the years, the Public Service has been inundated with various studies, such as the Government of The Bahamas’s 2007 Comprehensive Compensation Review of all positions across the Public Service.  Also, that successive administrations have paid lip service to a transformed civil service.

“It is this administration that will concretely and systematically address that transformation, and hence the creation of the Modernization Unit within the Office of the Prime Minister and the urgent need to borrow the thirty million dollars to assist in the digital transformation. The urgency requires the weight of my office,” The Prime Minister said.

The Modernization Unit has organized its deliberations around four focal points namely: citizen engagement, digitization, innovations and employee empowerment.

“The Bahamas must transform now!  And the goal of that transformation must be to improve the lives of Bahamians through the services we provide and for improved global competitiveness of The Bahamas to attract more foreign direct investment and promote the growth of Bahamian businesses.

“Our goal must be embedded in the foundational values of integrity, excellence, transparency, accountability and competitiveness. The Bahamas should not be a carbon copy of Estonia or any other country, but must incorporate and use best-fit practices from those countries that are succeeding,” the Prime Minister said.

The Government currently has an online presence of 400 services, that is, forms that may be obtained online. These forms must be printed, completed and then physically delivered to the relevant government ministry or department.  Of that 400, fourteen are actually online services, but may require the user to visit more than one site.  “Our government ministries, departments and corporations have been making strides in the use of Information and Communication Technologies and this is seen in the United Nations Electronic Government Development Index in which The Bahamas finds itself in the high category.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker this does not translate into ease of doing business with the government as the systems do not interface, that is, they do not talk to each other.

The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index 2018 ranks The Bahamas as 118th of 190 countries.

“This ranking does not auger well for encouraging Bahamian businesses or the promotion of foreign direct investment. In addition, it does not translate into customer satisfaction of Bahamians who must use these services every day. The Bahamas cannot remain at this level and survive,” the Prime Minister said.

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